Expanding business opportunity through IoT

After much anticipation, the Internet of Things has been steadily fulfilling its potential and as new standards and use cases emerge, potential new business ideas will be created

Michael Burton, founder ofBinary Tech

The Internet of Things (IoT) is opening up a world of possibilities, enabling organisations to explore and take advantage of the opportunities they provide and amplify their services.

In May, Three Ireland launched two Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) in the Irish market for IoT devices. The specialised category of wireless access is designed to maximise coverage, reduce costs and keep power consumption low.

Both standards allow industries and sectors across different verticals to expand their services significantly and discover entirely new ways to offer and monitor these services. This is usually done by uncovering the hidden elements of a business, like supply chains and tracking essential items like life buoys and medical supplies.

The demand from businesses has made this launch an easy choice as Three Ireland holds 66.6 per cent of the IoT market in Ireland. It also connects assets globally by having connectivity in 200 countries.

Three is the only carrier that has both IoT networks available in Ireland. The first is NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT) which is suited to static IoT devices with very low data throughput. The second is LTE-M (Long-Term Evolution Machine Type Communication), which is better suited to devices that move with slightly higher data throughput requirements.

Three Ireland’s offering will ensure that those embracing the IoT space can think far into the future with devices that offer low interaction but bring high-quality data to the users. Other advantages include reduced end device cost, enhanced coverage for devices located in harder-to-reach places and extended battery life lasting beyond ten years.

Both standards offer improved power consumption on devices, allowing further longevity in IoT devices. This is done through a technology called PSM (Power Saving Mode) that enables devices to sleep when not in use, and eDRX (Enhanced Discontinuous Reception) that extends the time frame when devices send updates.

Additionally, as a licensed spectrum, it ensures an extra layer of security and protection not found in other unlicensed spectra, such as LORA and Sigfox.

Already the applications that use LPWAN are specific, yet provide a bounty of riches, either by providing data that unlocks new possibilities or by improving customer experience and solutions.

Some, like mSemicon, are working with organisations like Dublin City Council on using this technology to monitor, alert and report if any ring buoys are missing or tampered with. Others like Cyberlok use the NB-IoT network to authenticate and unlock doors without the need for keys.

And then companies like Trimble use them to look at the bigger picture by monitoring and measuring water, wastewater and stormwater networks. This is to help in areas like optimisation, reducing asset failure and repair costs, and gathering essential data that can be used for planning and improving regulatory compliance.

The parallel between these companies is that they all have clear, identifiable aims for the technology that not only allow them to gain further insight but sometimes develop an entirely new view of that industry.

Different verticals, same major outcomes

A great example of this, and one using Three Ireland’s LPWAN network, is Binary Tech: a global IoT company headquartered in Australia with operations spanning three continents.

Binary Tech leverages LPWAN networks to track mobile assets ranging from beer kegs to pathology samples, optimising their supply chains, uncovering actionable insights and ensuring that sensitive goods are taken care of.

The founder of Binary Tech, Michael Burton, said such technology had been a real game changer for its work in digitally transforming the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods), eHealth and agriculture sectors. Being able to track goods and glean live, actionable insights from them was a dream before current IoT standards became a reality.

One of its FMCG businesses is Binary Beer, which tracks the status of beer kegs and gathers data such as location, temperature and orientation of the kegs along with the freshness and consumption of the beer they transport. Such insights have transformed how breweries think about their supply chains and the valuable insights they can feed back into their business operations.

“When we first started, we were just tracking kegs to reduce loss, damage and theft, which was the primary reason we put IoT sensors onto them,” he explained.

“Now we’re using complex sensors and cloud-based algorithms to gain deep insights into beer freshness and consumption data that can drive the entire production and sales process. Today tracking the kegs themselves is only a small part of the value proposition.”

With modern LPWAN technology, it’s able to build connected IoT devices for a fraction of the cost using previous generations of technology. This unlocks numerous opportunities in new verticals where IoT wasn’t economically viable.

“We’re also receiving data from places we couldn’t reach before,” he said. “Places like cellars and underground car parks where traditional connectivity wasn’t feasible a few years back are now possible, and it’s still embryonic.”

Such principles apply to other areas like the healthcare industry where Binary Tech is using its IoT sensors and platform to transform the pathology supply chain.

When transporting samples, maintaining sample integrity from the collection centre to the laboratory has been a significant challenge, with some estimating that the majority of clinical errors occur during this process.

This can lead to increased costs, damaged reputation and in the worst case, negative patient outcomes. Burton said the parallels between pathology and other industries like beer were fascinating, in that similar technology, hardware and protocols were used to process data but could deliver value in completely different use cases.

“Instead of tracking beer kegs, we’re tracking human samples, a high-value asset, that go from collection centres to the labs where they’re analysed” he said. “That’s where most errors occur as samples can get lost, forgotten or mistreated.

“The [LPWAN] technology is now so robust, ubiquitous and omnipotent in that it can deliver incredible value across a wide range of unique verticals.”